Defense rules the day for Ducks
EUGENE — Last week, Oregon's offense made headlines, scoring 77 points against Nevada.
On Saturday, it was the Ducks' defense that put on a show at Autzen Stadium, holding Montana, which was coming off a 61-17 victory against North Alabama, to 242 yards in a 35-3 rout.
The three points are the fewest Oregon has allowed since shutting out Arizona in 2012, and the Ducks have not given up a touchdown in back-to-back games.
"We love the way they are playing," Oregon coach Mario Cristobal said of the defense, which had four sacks. "We're very proud of the way they're executing and the pride they take in preparation. They deserve any positive credit they get. I think they're more in tune and more motivated by just getting better. They've done a great job so far, and the best is yet to come."
The offense wasn't bad, either, finishing with 560 total yards (313 passing and 247 rushing).
Quarterback Justin Herbert needed only 3 minutes, 2 seconds to extend his streak of consecutive games with a touchdown pass to 31, the longest in the nation, finding tight end Jacob Breeland in the end zone for a 5-yard score.
Herbert, who finished with 316 yards and five touchdown throws, completed his first 10 pass attempts before missing Bryan Addison on a deep ball in the middle of the field early in the second quarter.
"We're evolving as an offense, and he's (Herbert) taken complete ownership of it and been extremely accurate," Cristobal said. "Credit to the receivers. We might have dropped a couple today, but overall we're catching the ball a lot better, been more efficient route runners, and overall execution has been better."
Breeland, who had a career-high five receptions for 49 yards, caught his second touchdown of the game on a 17-yard pass from Herbert with 28 seconds remaining in the first quarter to extend the Ducks' lead to 14-0.
"Breeland, he's just stepped up his game," Cristobal said. "His run blocking has really improved. He's become such a sure-handed guy and a legitimate vertical threat."
With 54 seconds remaining in the first half, Montana's Brandon Purdy missed a 50-yard field goal.
Herbert then marched the Ducks down the field, and on first down from the Grizzlies' 18-yard line, he avoided a sack, scrambled to his right and connected with a diving Johnny Johnson III in the end zone.
"I thought he (Herbert) was wrapped up," Cristobal said. "I think the whole stadium thought he was wrapped up, and he found a way to shake out of that and show how strong he really is, and made a great throw. A great play by Johnny as well."
Montana drove into Oregon territory to begin the second half, but freshman cornerback Mykael Wright intercepted Grizzlies quarterback Dalton Sneed at the Ducks' 44.
"You saw how confident Mykael was," Cristobal said.
Oregon's offense went right back down the field, and Herbert completed a 1-yard touchdown pass to Johnson to extend the lead to 28-0.
With 18 seconds remaining in the third quarter, Montana got on the scoreboard when Purdy made a 25-yard field goal.
"We were really disappointed," said Oregon linebacker Isaac Slade-Matautia, who had four tackles. "We really wanted the shutout. I know the seniors really wanted that. We tried our best, but overall the defense is doing really well."
With 12:27 remaining, Jaylon Redd caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from Herbert, who became the first player in program history to throw five touchdown passes in back-to-back games.
MONTANA 0 0 3 0 — 3
OREGON 14 7 7 7 — 35
OREGON — Jacob Breeland 5 pass from Justin Herbert (Camden Lewis kick), 11:58
OREGON — Breeland 17 pass from Herbert (Lewis kick), 0:28
OREGON — Johnny Johnson III 18 pass from Herbert (Lewis kick), 0:10
OREGON — Johnson III 1 pass from Herbert (Lewis kick), 9:03
MONTANA — Brandon Purdy 25 field goal, 0:18
OREGON — Jaylon Redd 10 pass from Herbert (Lewis kick), 12:27
Att. — 49,098
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